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The Head and the Body


Text: Ephesians 1:22-23 (Supp. Readings 1st Corinthians 12:4ff, Col 1:15-19).

Paul is going to remind us that Christ is ALREADY the head of the church, which is his body. So, Paul is illustrating our relationship with the risen ascended Christ like this: “CHRIST is the HEAD and the church is HIS BODY.”  Let’s explore those two important ideas…

1. The Head of the Church. and gave him to be the head over all things to the church  

This is a difficult verse, but the key to understanding it, I think, is the word GAVE. The word is υπεταξεν  (hypotazzen). It means to PLACE UNDER, to bring things under the authority or governance of someone. God has placed everything under the authority of Christ, (and will bring everything under the authority of Christ – eschatologically) Jesus is in charge of everything in this universe, – he is governing the entire universe. He rules over galaxies, and worlds and stars and kings and authorities and governments and courts and councils and you and me, and he governs everything now and forever. Paul says, in Colossians 1:15-17 

Now, at the centre of Christ’s headship, his governing rule, which God the Father has placed in Him, is the Church.   Christ governs the universe in the interests of the church! Romans 8:28 The head of the church bestows upon it his love, care, benevolence.   Sickness will come, hardship, misery, sorrow, bereavement, death – But in Christ even these things are used for our benefit. Romans 8:35-39 Paul uses that same illustration – head/body – to describe two other relationships:

  • In the home. Ephesians 5:23  We’ll examine this in more detail in a future study.
  • In church order. In 1 Corinthians 11:3 Paul applies this teaching on headship to the worship of the church  1 Corinthians 11:3  It is why he later writes, 1 Timothy 2:12  The principle of headship applied in practice in the church, while we are all equal in status, Jew or Greek, bond or free, male or female, – we are NOT all similarly equipped for service. 

That brings us to the second of our two descriptions, for a head needs a body, and a head needs a functioning body:-

2. The Body of Christ. 23 Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.

Paul is using an analogy – he is likening the church to a body, to help us to understand how relationship between Christ and the church works. No other NT writer does this, and there’s no OT background to it either. In Acts, Acts 26:14 Paul, or Saul as he was known then, was persecuting the church, but Jesus applied this personally to himself, as if the church was … HIS BODY, and he as the head of that body felt the pain. Perhaps later on the impression grew in Paul’s mind, placed there and nurtured by the Holy Spirit, that the church is well described as being like a body, with a head, and various parts, – all doing their separate essential tasks, and all with equal importance. He uses that analogy here in Ephesians:-

  • The church is HIS BODY.  Ephesians 1:23  Those who have been chosen by Him and brought into the true church are likened to the ‘body of Jesus.’  Ephesians 5:28-30  Jesus loves the church, as we would love our own body, and he gave himself for his body. Ephesians 5:25-27  
  • The church is HIS FULNESS. the fulness of him that filleth all in all.  Jesus ‘fills everything!’ He fills the church from beginning to end. There are two possible explanations for this:
    • That the church is his completeness.  There is a problem though, for I don’t see any reference in the NT to a theory like this, – the idea that Christ is ‘imperfect’ in any respect is foreign to NT teaching. 
    • That He completes the Church. I think this may be a more credible explanation. Christ FILLS THE CHURCH. Colossians 1:27  Christ is IN the church, he fulfils it and gives it its life.
  • The Church is UNITED.  In 1st Corinthians 12. Paul makes a great list to illustrate how the parts of the body interact and co-depend. The Foot and the Hand! The Ear and the Eye! The Eye and the Hand, and the Head and the Feet! The Strong and the Weak! The Handsome and the Utilitarian! He stresses that every member NEEDS every other!   In the body of Christ, everyone is valuable. 1st Corinthians 12:21 
  • Jesus needs you! The ‘head and the feet’ illustration Paul uses in Corinthians is striking. Our Lord Jesus is in heaven, he is exalted and he is in charge of the entire universe, and he can predestine things according to his will, and still with all, he needs you and me. We are his implements, we are his hands and feet in his world, and we must carry out the work for which we have been fashioned.
  • We need each other. Every member must value every other, that every member must be bonded with every other. Must empathise with every other. 1 Corinthians 12:26 And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.

Let’s be clear. Christians are not just a collection of disparate lone individuals all of us seeking our own personal benevolence and blessing from God, – nor are we to be tied to denominational labels and titles. Christ’s body consists of all of those who are his people through faith in Christ. READ John 17:21  

So, we have learned another important lesson. Christ is the Head of the church which is described as his body, – that group of sinful people, whom God has chosen, and marked out as his sons, to be adopted into his family; for whom Christ died so forgive them for their sins and in whom the Holy Spirit dwells, guaranteeing the new life, both now and in eternity, and when he brings everything in the universe under the Authority or His Son Jesus, it will be for His Church, his beloved, His bride.

© Bob McEvoy 2023

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